The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Northwestern Bank President Jerry Jacobson.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Jerry: By the time I completed my MBA in the spring of 1978 in Chicago, I knew that large cities were not for me, so I moved back to my hometown of Chippewa Falls to look for a job. At that time, I was not sure what field I wanted to work in but was familiar with the banking industry as my mom had worked in the safe deposit area at a bank in town for many years.
When I returned to Chippewa Falls, I learned that another bank in town was hiring for a position that I was qualified for. That is when my career at Northwestern Bank started.
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
My favorite part of my job is listening to our commercial lenders who are so excited and motivated while they are working with entrepreneurs in getting their ideas into practice. I see their enthusiasm and satisfaction in helping the customers achieve their dreams. I love being able to provide them my insight to contribute to their successes.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
I wish the public understood that banks are not like other businesses. We have a charter that calls on us to help our communities succeed. Of course, we need to make money, but we are also here to serve the community’s needs. I wish they knew that the banking industry — community bankers in particular — are at the heart of small business lending; that we assist in driving the nation’s growth.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
The only way the banking industry will continue to succeed is with good employees and I feel that over the next few years, many long-time bankers will be retiring. Communication from the WBA reports almost daily of the retirement of another long-time employee and recently, Northwestern Bank celebrated fifteen employees with over 30 years of banking.
Unfortunately, I think it will be difficult to find employees who have the desire and passion to be bankers at all levels of banking. So, now more than ever, it is important that banks find ways to transfer that community-minded culture to new employees and nurture the same passion for banking that has been the norm in the past several decades.
Please describe your current role at your bank and share with us one of your more rewarding experiences.
Throughout my career at Northwestern Bank, I have had many rewarding experiences. One, however, happened when I was a young lender in 1982 and has stuck with me for over 40 years.
A young man in his 30’s — just a few years older than me — came in and said he was taking a two- month leave from work to travel and experience everything that Europe had to offer. He asked me for the largest loan I could possibly give against his life insurance policy. After a few months, he stopped back at the bank a to thank me and said he had the most enjoyable trip that anyone could have. Six months after I made the loan, it was paid off by his life insurance. He had passed away.
I tell everyone that I have the greatest job in the world to be a part of helping others achieve and enjoy their dreams and have a better life.